Is his name in the rafters or what? Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing was asking, wanting to know what was up with how he kept getting “accosted” for a pass walking around Madison Square Garden, his identity somehow a mystery.
“I thought this was my building. … Everybody in the building should know who I am,’' Ewing said Thursday afternoon, getting that off his chest but still in a good mood.
Lately, Villanova likes to think of the Garden as its building, at least around Big East tournament time. Except the 2021 Big East tournament goes down as one and done. Not a bad short-handed effort, just good enough to lose by a point.
This time, a last-second look after a 4.7 second race up the court was contested and off the rim. Since the scoreboard doesn’t grade you on a curve it goes down as Georgetown 72, Villanova 71.
» READ MORE: How it happened against Georgetown
The other guys made all the free throws, including two to take the lead in the last five seconds. Georgetown set a Big East tournament record with 23 free throws in 23 attempts. Did anyone say a Perfect Game? No, this one wasn’t perfect, despite any hackneyed 1985 Villanova vs. Ewing references anyone wants to make.
“Well, to me, that’s not a revenge,’' Ewing said when a media type tried to ask about getting revenge for ’85. “That was in the championship game. They have one of my banners. I take my hat off to them.”
(By the way, it’s safe to say the remarks of the former Knicks great hit home with James Dolan, owner of the Knicks and Madison Square Garden. A statement arrived later from MSG: “Jim and Patrick have a long-standing relationship; they spoke this afternoon and reaffirmed that. We all know, respect and appreciate what he means to the Garden and New York. Good luck to him and his Hoyas in the Big East semifinals.”)
This season, Villanova doesn’t do perfect. They grind you out, undermanned or not, but if they only make 9 of 30 threes and an imperfect 14 of 22 free throws, that adds up to a little rest before the NCAA tournament.
Look for their seed to drop. … Maybe not a 4 seed, depending on how this week plays out for others. But what do seeds have to do with anything for Villanova this season? The Wildcats were 5-2 against teams in the top 50 of the KenPom.com rankings, lost three times in the last four games to teams outside the top 70.
The surprise here, other than that some poor souls not knowing their MSG icons, is how Villanova seemed to have weathered past this quarterfinal storm. First Jermaine Samuels and then Jeremiah Robinson-Earl were throwing the offense on their backs. Using the bench more seemed like it was paying dividends. You can’t say the offense was all out of whack without Collin Gillespie when they only committed six turnovers.
When the Hoyas finally plugged up the lanes to the hoop and didn’t allow Robinson-Earl to get the ball where his exquisite pivot work could take over, Georgetown had the Wildcats where they wanted them.
For Villanova, Chris Arcidiacono deserves major kudos. Four assists, no turnovers, and a thorough knowledge of what was expected of him defensively, as you’d expect from a guy who has spent two seasons entirely on the scout team. No points, but he’s proven this isn’t too much for him. And he’s got some bounce to his step.
This wasn’t exactly vintage Georgetown. It’s going to take the Hoyas a win tomorrow to get to .500 for the season and a win in the Big East title game to stay there. They earned what they got, though.
It was a major surprise to see Justin Moore out there for Villanova after what had been described as a serious sprained ankle. Moore did not force anything, but his 10 points in 27 minutes weren’t difference-making, and his usual top-grade defense was replaced by a lot of effort, but five personal fouls, only the second time Moore fouled out in his career. At least he answered the question: Expect to see him in Indianapolis, where Villanova heads next for the entirety of the NCAA tournament.
How long will they be out there? There’s something to be said for not having great expectations. Let’s still argue they are a team you do not want to play out there. They’ve got guys. Jay Wright played more of them Wednesday, getting nine players at least nine minutes. Playing through the big men works because the big men are great passers, too.
The questions pop up more at the defensive end, where all the Villanova guys know the scouting report, but that doesn’t always get you to the next round, not even against a middling Big East team, coached by … Excuse me, what is your name, sir?